Islay News – Islay Estates http://islayestates.com Helping to build Islay’s future Tue, 16 Oct 2018 15:37:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Changes at Islay House Square http://islayestates.com/changes-at-islay-house-square Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:07:12 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1335             In early 2018 Islay’s ninth operational distillery, Ardnahoe, is due to open. In the meantime we are delighted to welcome to Islay House Square the Ardnahoe Visitors Centre. Islay Studios have moved across the square to a bigger and better equipped location and as a result Ardnahoe Distillery is […]

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In early 2018 Islay’s ninth operational distillery, Ardnahoe, is due to open. In the meantime we are delighted to welcome to Islay House Square the Ardnahoe Visitors Centre.

Islay Studios have moved across the square to a bigger and better equipped location and as a result Ardnahoe Distillery is now occupying the former space of the Studios shop.

The shop will stay at this location for a few years until Ardnahoe Distillery have their own visitor centre and shop on site.

We wish both Ardnahoe and Islay Studios much luck in their new premises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Islay Estates Farming Update http://islayestates.com/islay-estates-farming-update Fri, 04 Sep 2015 08:53:02 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1130 New developments on the Home Farm include the purchase of a new bull, Jawbreaker, cutting hay and the addition of 14 Luing heifers from Oronsay. Last year we bought 6 Luing heifers from the RSPB; they had been brought up on Oronsay and so were well acclimatised to life on the west coast. They fared […]

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Bowmore from Gartbreck

New developments on the Home Farm include the purchase of a new bull, Jawbreaker, cutting hay and the addition of 14 Luing heifers from Oronsay.

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Jawbreaker and his girls

Last year we bought 6 Luing heifers from the RSPB; they had been brought up on Oronsay and so were well acclimatised to life on the west coast. They fared well at Gartbreck and were fairly calm and easy to handle.  This year we were faced with a choice – to breed from them or to sell.  If breeding, we had to decide on a Luing bull to continue their pure line or to cross them with a Simmental for beef calves.  The decision was not an easy one as we have all grown rather fond of the girls – have a look at http://islayestates.com/farming-islay-estates-update to see the beginning of their story last year.  Eventually, after much soul-searching and deliberating we found a bull (or, more accurately, Donald Morrison of United Auctions found a bull) on Colonsay called Jawbreaker.  A slightly ominous name for an animal, although his previous owner says that he is a friendly chap with great character and fond of swimming!  We’ll keep our distance for the time being and I suggest any visitors to the farm do the same.  Jawbreaker is an experienced bull so we hope he’ll do the job over the next few weeks.

Farming is increasingly becoming a mixture between food production and environmental management.  I think it is fair to say that most farmers know more about wildlife and habitats than their predecessors – possibly helped by a financial incentive but also because we are more aware of what is around us.  We have developed farming methods with new machinery – sometimes at the expense of traditional methods.  An example of this is the hay bale which is generally large and round and can only be

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Duncan cutting the hay

moved by tractor: but most people on Islay don’t grow hay – it is too wet and too risky; silage or haylage is a more reliable crop and it ensures that there will always be some winter fodder on the farm.  Last year we grew some lovely hay at Ardlarach and tried to do the same this year.  Unfortunately there has not been a dry spell of more than 2 days since June so any chance of drying the grass was impossible.  We have a small window of dry weather – XC weather says it will be dry for the next week so the grass was cut yesterday (3rd September) and we hope to bale it in about 6 days’ time. We’ll use small bales (traditional) so that the sheep can be fed in winter with one person on a quad bike; we find this old-fashioned method softer on the fields and much easier to manage with one person.  The grass was cut in a ‘corncrake friendly’ way – you can see in the photograph that Duncan McPhee is ensuring that any birds that may be in the grass are not caught in an island in the middle of the field but have a chance to escape.  Meanwhile we’re praying for dry weather….

 

Having taken the decision to keep our cows we also decided to increase the herd with another 14 heifers from the RSPB.  Like Ginger, Brownie, Blondie and co, these animals were brought up on Oronsay so they should be used to the climate – we hope they’ll do as well as last year’s.  All going well, we should have a herd of 30 cows in 3 years time.  We plan to continue with Luings for a while then introduce a Simmental Bull to produce Sim-Luings which have the size of a continental cow and the hardiness of a traditional west coast animal.

The barley is not looking too bad considering the weather – we are about a month behind as a cold spring and very wet summer meant there has been little growth.  Added to this we have the problem of thousands of Greylag Geese on Islay who can destroy a whole field of barley.  The Greylags have certainly increased in number and are causing problems all over the island – not helped by the lateness of this year’s crop which means that they have plenty to choose from.

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Islay Show http://islayestates.com/islay-show Sat, 22 Aug 2015 09:46:07 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1126 Islay Show 2015 was a great success.  Against the backdrop of a very wet summer, the sunshine on Show Day brought the crowds in.  Competition was fierce in all sections and the entrants really enjoyed the chance to relax after the judging.  Islay Estates had some entries for the first time in about 30 years […]

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Islay Show 2015 was a great success.  Against the backdrop of a very wet summer, the sunshine on Show Day brought the crowds in.  Competition was fierce in all sections and the entrants really enjoyedWinning Sheep the chance to relax after the judging.  Islay Estates had some entries for the first time in about 30 years – these included some mule lambs and a pen of fat lambs.  The fat lambs won their class and were reserve champion in the category.  This was an outstanding result for Andrew Fletcher and Gillian Bignal who had worked hard to get everything ready.  The winning lambs are pictured with Robbie Brown who also helped to prepare the sheep.

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Mulindry Farm http://islayestates.com/mulindry-farm Fri, 21 Aug 2015 06:12:11 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1110 AN OFFER TO RENT MULINDRY FARM HAS BEEN ACCEPTED – THEREFORE IT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE   Mulindry Farm is the first residential mixed farm available on the open market for let on Islay Estates for about 30 years.  Details of the farm can be obtained through CKD Galbraith LLP; the letting agent is Niall Macallister-Hall. […]

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AN OFFER TO RENT MULINDRY FARM HAS BEEN ACCEPTED – THEREFORE IT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE

 

Mulindry Farm is the first residential mixed farm available on the open market for let on Islay Estates for about 30 years.  Details of the farm can be obtained through CKD Galbraith LLP; the letting agent is Niall Macallister-Hall.  Alternatively call Islay Estates for more details.  

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Farming Update http://islayestates.com/farming-update Sat, 30 May 2015 19:02:12 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1104 Have a look at Emily’s video to see the “Livestock of Loch Indaal”!!

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Have a look at Emily’s video to see the “Livestock of Loch Indaal”!!

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Walk Islay http://islayestates.com/walk-islay Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:41:13 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1098 Islay Estates are delighted to help with WalkIslay, an annual week of walking on Islay, Jura and Colonsay.  We are taking part in two walks this week, one on 13th April at Bridgend, the other on 14th April at Bunnahabhain.  Information on how to take part is at www.walkislay.co.uk  We do, of course encourage people, […]

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Islay Estates are delighted to help with WalkIslay, an annual week of walking on Islay, Jura and Colonsay.  We are taking part in two walks this week, one on 13th April at Bridgend, the other on 14th April at Bunnahabhain.  Information on how to take part is at www.walkislay.co.uk  We do, of course encourage people, whether visitors or locals, to enjoy the paths around the Estate but particularly ask that at this time of year dogs are kept on a lead and away from sheep, cows and any nesting birds.

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Walkers at Knockdon April 2015

 

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Farming Update – Tups Come to Islay Estates http://islayestates.com/farming-update-tups-come-islay Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:38:56 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1075 Having bought some Blackface hoggs in May, we have now purchased some Blueface Leicester tups to start our own flock of Scotch Mules.  The Mule is generally considered to be a good breeding sheep – the hardiness of the Blackface combined with the size and composition of the Blueface Leicester creates a sheep that is consistently […]

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The new boys starting to get to know one another at Bridgend before running with the ewes.

Having bought some Blackface hoggs in May, we have now purchased some Blueface Leicester tups to start our own flock of Scotch Mules.  The Mule is generally considered to be a good breeding sheep – the hardiness of the Blackface combined with the size and composition of the Blueface Leicester creates a sheep that is consistently good at producing quality lambs for eating.

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We were looking for roman noses, long straight backs and strong hinquarters

In order to produce a good, meaty lamb for the Sunday roast the traditional ‘terminal sire’ (i.e. the end of this breeding chain that is bred for the butcher) is the Suffolk.  As you can see from the picture, the Suffolk is a very different sheep to the Blueface Leicester – sturdy, meaty and generously proportioned.  Broad hindquarters will produce good meat and the Scotch Mule makes an excellent mother.

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The Suffolk – a meaty choice for the terminal sire

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Whisky Rocks – An Islay Odyssey http://islayestates.com/whisky-rocks-islay-odyssey Sun, 14 Sep 2014 10:17:07 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1058 As I turned the RIB out of Port Askaig basin at 0945hrs on the 13th of Sepetmber 2014  I had no idea what lay in store for the rest of the day.  Being a sunny Saturday with high pressure sitting over the country I was fairly confident that the weather would remain calm for the […]

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It was somewhere near here that the Exmouth Castle foundered in 1847; this is the sea on a calm day - one can only imagine what it was like in that northerly April storm which wrecked the ship.

It was somewhere near here that the Exmouth Castle foundered in 1847; this is the sea on a calm day – one can only imagine what it was like in that northerly April storm which wrecked the ship.

As I turned the RIB out of Port Askaig basin at 0945hrs on the 13th of Sepetmber 2014  I had no idea what lay in store for the rest of the day.  Being a sunny Saturday with high pressure sitting over the country I was fairly confident that the weather would remain calm for the rest of the day and whilst it was not bright sunshine, the haze was gradually being burnt off by the heat of the sun.

My first thought was to look at the tide.  High tide was at 0730hrs and I knew that low tide was due to be at about 1530hrs.  This meant that the tides would be ebbing southwards through the Sound of Islay for the rest of the morning.  The current flows at about 5-6 knots so I could easily go against it and head north but it is much more economical – and faster – to go with the flow.

There had been talk of a huge number of mackerel in the sound during August and early September; people have been catching 5 at a time off the pier.  So I dropped a line in the water just off Dunlossit – nothing!  My patience quickly ran out so I headed south with the tide and was soon going 32 knots – not bad for a 50 HP outboard.  This meant I was quickly past McArthur’s Head and heading rapidly for Ardmore.

I have walked from McArthur’s Head to Ardtalla – not something I would recommend for while the scenery is beautiful, the going is pretty tough.  It is much easier by water.  I passed Claggain Bay where there had been a ludicrous proposal to put a fish farm and rounded the corner to the Ardmore Islands.  Several sailors have waxed lyrical about the beauty of the Ardmore Islands and I can see exactly what they mean.  There is a mystical wilderness about them and you have to know your way to avoid hitting one of the many rocks.  Once round Ardmore Point it is possible to take an inside track all the way to Ardbeg – not recommended at speed, at low tide or in anything that draws more than 0.5 metres!

Ardbeg Distillery - nestling behind the rocks on the south of Islay

Ardbeg Distillery – nestling behind the rocks on the south of Islay

Having squeezed through the narrow gap between Kildalton and Eilan Imersay – I came across Ardbeg.  I have been this way before and knew what to expect, but seeing the distillery from the sea, nestling behind the reefs that surround it on the seaward side, I thought what fun it would be to photograph the three south coast distilleries from the sea.  I’m no great photographer, but this would be a lovely record of our time on Islay.  I also thought that Charlotte – who had been expecting some fishing in Loch Indaal – might be able to come and join me in Port Ellen.

The bay is surrounded by rocks but sheltered once you're in - smugglers country?

The bay is surrounded by rocks but sheltered once you’re in – smugglers country?

So Arbeg slipped by, closely followed by Lagavulin.  I know this water quite well as Gus Newman’s boat yard is next door to Lagavulin and I have had numerous test runs in and out of the bay.  On then past Texa to Laphroaig – nestling snugly in a bay, no wonder this area is known as ‘the smugglers’ haunt’.

The distilleries are on the coast for several reasons and I am sure each distiller will give their own version of why: it could simply be for the transportation of coal by puffer, or perhaps because for easy discharge of waste products, or maybe because for the taste of the sea during the distillation and maturation process… Who knows the main answer – but they certainly look pretty.

Closely guarded by the rocks, nestling in a pretty bay on the south of Islay

Closely guarded by the rocks, nestling in a pretty bay on the south of Islay

It was while I paused between the island of Texa and Laphroaig that I had an idea – what if I could get round the Mull of Oa into Loch Indaal?  I know the way reasonably well and am aware of the dangerous tides and overfalls off the Oa.  If I could make it to Bowmore or Bruichladdich then Charlotte could meet me there and the fishing she had anticipated might still happen.  I set off west and was fairly quickly at Rubha na Leacan – the southernmost tip of Islay.  The sea was not too bad and I was able to motor on quickly to the American Monument and out into open water.  It was 1130hrs and I had been going for 1¾ hours.  I still had half a tank of fuel – in fact I hadn’t even used quarter of a tank (25 litres) since starting.  Maybe I could go all the way round Islay…

Strong tides and currents create overfalls here - it can be treacherous in calm weather.  Advice is to stay reasonably close to the shore for a smoother passage.

Strong tides and currents create overfalls off the Mull of Oa – it can be treacherous in calm weather. Advice is to stay reasonably close to the shore for a smoother passage.

The sea was still fairly flat as I headed over the mouth of Loch Indaal.  This is when I realised that circumnavigation of Islay might be possible.  I telephoned Charlotte and asked her to meet me at 1300hrs at Sanaig – a fairly tight timeline for me to get all the way round the Rhinns of Islay.  The sea around Portnahaven was fairly choppy – this is quite usual as the tides in the North Channel are pretty strong.  I had a brief respite inside Orsay and Mackenzie Island before facing Frenchman’s Rocks.  I don’t want to be over dramatic but whenever I have spoken to people about leaving Loch Indaal and going up the west of Islay they have always warned me about Frenchman’s Rocks.  The currents are strong here and any mishap would almost certainly have disastrous consequences.  The area looked more sinister to me than anywhere I have been – except perhaps Corryvreckan.  But I was in luck – I seemed to catch the top of some swell going through the gap and surfed though on the crest of a wave – what a great feeling!

Nestling in a pretty bay at the south of Islay but there are some very dangerous waters around here - particularly at Frenchman's Rocks

Portnahaven nestling in a pretty bay at the south of Islay but there are some very dangerous waters around here – particularly at Frenchman’s Rocks

A fairly long pull past the beautiful Lossit Bay and on past Machir Bay.  No chance to stop for Kilchoman I’m afraid as I surged on past Saligo, taking a couple of pictures of the Bignal’s farm at Smaladh on the way past.  I wonder if they have seen their farm from the sea?  On past the Opera House Rocks (I’m sure they must have another name) and past the small beach at Traigh Bhan.  I reckon I was about as remote as I had been all journey at this stage.

It was about this area that the Exmouth Castle was shipwrecked in April 1847 as it was taking 240 emigrants, 3 women passengers and eleven crew to Quebec from Londonderry.  It is a tragic story as only 3 members of the crew survived while the ship was smashed against the rocks.  I can quite see the hostile nature of this coast and was relieved to have rounded the headland to reach Sanaigmore Bay on the stroke of 1 o’clock.

Charlotte appeared with additional petrol (which I hoped we would not need) and lunch (which I knew I did need!).  We set off towards Ardnave – back in familiar waters as we have spent many trips going in and out of the rocky reefs around Nave Island.  On past the beach at Kilinallan towards Bholsa.  We planned to stop for lunch on the north beach at Rhuvaal but the breakers were too severe on the RIB and several washed over the stern.  We headed round the corner, past the lighthouse and into a little bay used by the Cobbs (who live in the former lighthouse keeper’s house) to keep their boat.

The tide was still ebbing so we had lunch, a short walk up to the old jetty, a snooze on the rocks then set off again at about 4pm towards Port Askaig.  I was clucking slightly about the fuel level but as we hadn’t used the reserve we tried a little fishing again off Rhuvaal where I had watched gannets diving during lunch.  Nothing.  Alan MacDonald (one of Islay Estates’ keepers) thinks I must be the unluckiest fisherman ever because I never seem to catch many – if any at all.  But this was not the purpose of this odyssey so we set off south in flat calm in the Sound Of Islay.

Bunnahabhain - maybe the one distillery closest to my heart

Bunnahabhain – maybe the one distillery closest to my heart

For many reasons Bunnahabhain is my favourite distillery; I know most of the staff who work there – a very cheerful bunch – and the water comes from Islay Estates’ land.  I also like their product!  The rusting remains of the ‘Wyre Majestic’ who hit the rocks in 1974 still overlook the bay and reminds us all of the potential danger of the sea.

The last distillery on the journey but the first Islay one I discovered

The last distillery on the journey but the first Islay one I discovered

The last distillery on this journey was Caol Ila.  I have a particular soft spot for Caol Ila because it was the first Islay Whisky that I really enjoyed after buying a bottle in Harrogate in 1998.  Little did I know then that I would be living on Islay and running the estate that supplies the water to it.  Like this journey, not everything turns out as one expects it too.

I am sorry that I didn’t skirt round Loch Indaal and include Bowmore and Bruichladdich in the journey; I am also sorry not to have looked at Gartbreck where we have been carrying out fairly extensive farming operations recently and where Jean Donnay is going to builds Islay’s ninth distillery next year.  Maybe I’ll have to do another trip and take them all in!

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Harvesting Underway http://islayestates.com/harvesting-underway-2 Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:39:00 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1044 We started to harvest the barley at Gartbreck on Monday only to find the endrows were a bit too green and not really ready yet – this grain went into the duck pond!  The rest of the field was then cut on Wednesday and Thursday with moisture levels just below 20% – hopefully this will […]

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Harvesting next to Gartbreck with Bruichladdich Distillery visible on the other side of Loch Indaal on Islay

We started to harvest the barley at Gartbreck on Monday only to find the endrows were a bit too green and not really ready yet – this grain went into the duck pond!  The rest of the field was then cut on Wednesday and Thursday with moisture levels just below 20% – hopefully this will be suitable for malting.  The Ardlarach field is a bit patchy – we’ll have a go at harvesting the riper areas over the weekend and then see how the greener bits look.  It is quite likely that they will not be ripe enough so we’ll either keep the grain aside for feed or make a whole-crop silage.  As a very last resort we may have to cut our losses and leave the standing crop to be topped and the grain left on the ground.  This will be great for the geese and at least the field works have achieved the aim of cleaning weeds out and restoring fertility to the ground.

So why the late germination?  My hunch (based on very little experience) is that the ground is too acidic.  However it is possible that the combination of grazing by deer, geese and hares as well as some insects (probably leatherjackets) may have caused areas of the crop to grown late and hence be a month behind some of the other barley.  We’ll sample the field and take it from there.

 

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Farming on Islay Estates – Update http://islayestates.com/farming-islay-estates-update Sat, 06 Sep 2014 17:29:48 +0000 http://islayestates.com/?p=1022 Last week we bought 6 Luing heifers from the Islay market.  They had been reared on Oronsay so are well acclimatised to to west coast climate.  they are currently grazing at Gartbreck and have been named as Blondie, Brownie, Ginger, Chantelle, Sybil and Justine.  The explanation for the names is a little obtuse – blame my […]

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Chantelle, Sybil, Justine, Ginger, Brownie and Blondie

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Barley at Gartbreck

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Barley at Ardlarach

Last week we bought 6 Luing heifers from the Islay market.  They had been reared on Oronsay so are well acclimatised to to west coast climate.  they are currently grazing at Gartbreck and have been named as Blondie, Brownie, Ginger, Chantelle, Sybil and Justine.  The explanation for the names is a little obtuse – blame my daughter Emily for coming up with them.  The cows are doing well so far, they are occasionally hand fed to keep them friendly and we will hope to put them to the bull in June next year. The barley is looking ready to harvest at Gartbreck and Ardlarach – the yield will not be as high as it should be this year as this is the first time the fields have been worked for some years so the fertility of the soil is a bit low.  I also think that the soil is a bit too acidic so we’ll be testing it again soon with a view to liming the stubble.  The important thing is to get the crop off before the migratory geese come in – which could be some time soon.

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Sheep grazing by the shore at Gartbreck

The sheep are doing well – we hope to increase the size of the flock over the next few weeks.  The aim is to be able to produce good quality store lambs from a Scotch Mule/Suffolk cross.  The first stage in this process is to get the Blackface ewes crossed with a Border Leicester tup.  The hogs we bought earlier this year will be put to the tup in November and we’ll buy in some additional Scotch Mules to help us on our way.

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Greylags lifting from the crops

  There are 3 main types of geese on Islay.  Greenland Barnacle and Whitefronts – geese that migrate at the end of September and stay until April – and Greylags.  Greylags are increasing in number and are present throughout the year; they generally roost on the mosses during the summer and spend time out at sea but they come onto the crops just before harvest time and can destroy a field of barley very quickly.  They can be shot for sport after 1st September but their increasing numbers do cause concern.

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A field of Oats at Bowmore

We are involved in a trial with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to see if the migratory geese, specifically the whitefronts, accept some alternative feeding.  We have sown a field of swedes, oats and fodder beet to see which (if any) they prefer and how we might have sacrificial crops to prevent damage to the farmers’ grass.

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